Jaguar Land Rover to hire 5,000 highly skilled new staff as Brexit talks begin

19 June 2017

Jaguar Land Rover to hire 5,000 highly skilled new staff as Brexit talks begin

19 June 2017

Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is planning to greatly grow its UK technical team with an additional 5,000 engineers and tech staff over the next year, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Currently employing nearly 40,000 people in the UK, the major expansion comes as the UK began its Brexit negotiations with the EU on Monday, boosting confidence that strong domestic investment will continue despite the country’s exit from the bloc. It forms part of JLR’s ambitious plans to raise the number of cars it builds in Britain from 544,000 last year (out of a total of 604,009 units) to one million by 2020 – almost doubling in just three years. This is an incredible turnaround for the company, with sales set to grow seven-fold in just over a decade from just 158,000 units in 2009. This compares to premium giant BMW Group’s 2.4 million 2016 sales, and the 800,000-vehicle 2020 target by challenger premium rival Volvo.

The recruitment drive, which could be announced this week, will focus on electronic and software engineers (similar to a smaller recent drive by Renault), as the auto industry adapts to revolutionary new fields in connected and autonomous cars. It is using an unusual employment technique, joining forces with rock band Gorillaz to develop a code-breaking challenge in an app, with applicants who succeed at breaking the code being fast-tracked through the recruitment process.

The technique aims to employ talented people from non-standard backgrounds to boost the levels of talent and number of applicants, with JLR’s head of electrical engineering Alex Heslop saying this is ‘a way to recruit a diverse pool of talent in software and cyber systems, app development and graphics performance. As the automotive industry transforms over the next decade we will have to attract the best talent and that requires a radical rethink of how we recruit.’

The news follows JLR’s investment in another emerging field, with its mobility unit investing in the US’s second-largest ride hailer Lyft, which will also see both firms investing in autonomous vehicles.

Despite coming at the beginning of the crucial Brexit negotiations, this positive news for the UK comes at a time when the media focus is elsewhere, with the country being buffeted by turmoil, including a horrific fire in London last week and another terrorist incident in the capital yesterday, the fourth in the country this year. Furthermore, the Brexit talks begin without the weakened UK government having officially been re-formed following the election two weeks ago, and with a leader whose future looks uncertain. The government-forming Queen’s Speech has been delayed following the leading Conservative Party’s loss of its majority, with talks to form a loose agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party continuing.

Brexit could have a direct link to such a large hiring drive by JLR, owned by India’s struggling Tata Motors, due to the UK having a shortage of engineers. As such, depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations with the EU, this hiring drive could need to be completed before the country leaves the EU in March 2019 (or the end of following transitional arrangements), so that JLR can get the engineers, including some from abroad, that it needs.

JLR’s strategy director Hanno Kirner warned last year that any new tariffs (and more importantly, customs controls) erected after Britain leaves the EU will make the company uncompetitive and put jobs at risk, hindering its incredible growth trajectory. The company is one of the UK’s biggest exporters, with 80% of its sales made abroad. While growing rapidly in the US and China, Europe remains its biggest market, where Jaguar sales more than doubled last year. The Jaguar brand is a key area of potential growth for the company, and includes JLR’s sedan class rivals to models such as BMW’s core bestselling 5-Series.

Most of its manufacturing remains in the UK at sites at Castle Bromwich, Halewood and Solihull, with CEO Ralf Speth stating he would like to see production remain in the UK, if the country remains competitive. However, it also has plants in China and Brazil to serve these regions, and is planning to start production in Slovakia and Austria due to incentives and technical reasons respectively.

JLR caught rivals by surprise with a 2018 release date for its first all-electric SUV, the Jaguar I-PACE, which is launching at least a year before many rivals. It will have a range of more than 500km (311 miles) (NEDC cycle). While this is currently set to be produced under contract in Austria, Speth says it will bring production to the UK when Britain has improved its electric vehicle-related facilities. The UK government is planning to deliver with an additional £2 billion (€2.3 billion) a year by 2020 for autonomous vehicle research and development, plus an extra £80 million (€91 million) for electric vehicle charging points announced last year in its Autumn Statement budget.

Photograph courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

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